Self-taught artist Delores J. Farmer hopes to build representation in the non-diverse field of pottery
By Abigail Keller | Photo by John Michael Simpson
Delores J. Farmer says she always knew, on some level, that she wanted to be an artist. The Durham native grew up along Fayetteville Street, where she spent her childhood making mud cakes and weaving hearts out of fallen willow branches. She eventually discovered a deep passion for pottery during her junior year at North Carolina Central University.
“I took a pottery class and instantly fell in love with the medium,” Delores says. “Working with my hands has always been very therapeutic for me – the first sculpture I created in my hand-building class was featured on the marketing material for the university’s museum, and I knew I was on to something.”
Delores came across Claymakers, a community space dedicated to the clay arts, while out on a stroll through downtown. Seeking to hone her pottery skills, she participated in Claymakers’ assistantship program, which offers free classes and studio access to employees who work a set number of hours each week, and trained herself in the intricate process behind the craft. She spent five years at the studio, and the experience taught her not only the patience needed to learn something new through imperfection, but also the discipline needed to run a studio. Today, she is taking those lessons to heart and making her dream a reality.
As of press time, Delores was set to open Delores Pottery and Studios at 1601 E. Geer St. in mid-July. Delores says her 1,000-square-foot space, the first Black-owned community pottery studio in Durham, will offer beginner and intermediate classes, collaborations with other local artists and its own assistantship program.
“I want the new studio to be the first of many community studios and shared artistic spaces,” Delores says. “Living a life where you create everyday functional items and art gives you a new appreciation for the skill, talent and craftsmanship that goes into your favorite coffee mug, the painting you love to visit at the museum, and any and every item you interact with.”
Delores says she also hopes that her studio will stand as an example of diversity and representation in the non-diverse field of pottery. “I hope that people of color see the studio, see the artists and students and think, ‘Hey, I can do that,’” she says. Perhaps her studio can’t quite conquer larger issues such as resource and education disparity, she says, but blazing this trail is her beginning.
“I want to share the knowledge I have acquired throughout my clay community experiences, but I also want to spread appreciation for all people and entities,” Delores says. “Pottery is about taking the dirt and mud of the earth and creating beautiful wares – it’s about taking what so many ignore and showing the world its beauty.”